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Embedded Systems

The era of the one-size-fits-all product comes to an end

From automobiles to meat cases to artificial hearts, today’s smarter products represent a new generation of capabilities that fuse together sensors, actuators, electronics and mechanical systems. In fact, 66% of manufactures surveyed include embedded systems in their products (Aberdeen 2009). And those embedded systems create customized, personalized and unique experiences for end users.


These smarter products don't roll off the assembly line with all those bells and whistles in place. Manufacturers must now master a wide variety of software disciplines, including requirements management, change and configuration management, model-driven software development, quality/test and portfolio management. But few, if any, manufacturers have those skills in-house. So it takes a complex ecosystem of developers, engineers, suppliers and partners to bring smarter products to market.

So by designing more complex products that provide richer customer experiences, manufacturers are, in essence, architecting more opportunities to fail. 49% of software-related projects suffer budget overruns and 50% of outsourced projects are expected to under perform.

With this increasing level of integration and interconnection between assorted products, systems, companies and countries, the potential cost of design and development of smarter products will increase dramatically unless the right processes, products and people are put in place. Those can involve:

  • Increasing quality management, including traceability and accountability.
  • Transforming value chains, as original equipment manufacturers and supplier/subcontractor relationships continue to evolve.
  • Creating new partnerships across industries, allowing companies to focus on their core competencies while leveraging innovations from external sources.

Smarter products are already transforming the world and the way in which we interact with it. Smarter manufacturing stands to transform the way those products go from a bright idea in the mind of a designer to a must-have gadget in the hands of the consumer.


48% of product companies view 'improving quality (few flaws)' as the key challenge in smarter products. Software/systems is a new competency and is more difficult to manage than the traditional supply chain parts that are used in electrical-mechanical product development.


How IBM helps make smarter products with embedded systems

One airplane can contain some six million lines of software code, equivalent to a three-story-high pile of books. That's why Airbus worked with IBM to design, test and manufacture the incredibly complex mechanical, electronic and embedded systems that help make their planes smarter and safer.

Item-level tracking is one way to generate higher revenues, greater customer service opportunities, wider margins and capital optimization. That's why Volkswagen is deploying the new system following a one-year pilot project in which the automaker and IBM tested RFID technology with suppliers.

Solutions design and development

Product Lifecycle Management solutions

Building blocks for smarter products